We use a three step process of traceability, auditing, and training to make our HIT program work.
As we mentioned, our team has been busy building a database that traces the path of all our ingredients on their journey to your plate! A special thing about it is that it not only traces where a product is grown and its final place of packaging, but it captures many of the intermediate steps in between. That means that when your product is transformed in a significant way, we know where that happens and who is responsible for it. In the food industry, this is less of a common occurrence than one might hope. This means that we know who has shelled your peanuts or exported your sesames!
Once Again wants to be able to rest assured that environmental and social integrity are maintained during all steps of the supply chain. That’s why we’ve been busy mapping our supply chain and building a database to track those steps for every lot of product that goes into our final products
After mapping our supply chain and being able to trace our product flow from start to finish, we’re now able to begin to audit our entire supply chain according to our HIT program standards (see “what it stands for” to learn more about them).
We started in 2016 with formal audits of our biggest commodity suppliers. That means peanuts and almonds processing in Nicaragua, Argentina, and Italy have all been visited and found to comply with our environmental, social, and quality standards.
When are Suppliers Audited?
New suppliers or value-add processors must agree to meet the General Requirements we have in place for our suppliers. This is part of our SQF certification! As we further develop our HIT program, we will implement the use of a code of conduct for our supply chain. The code of conduct complements the General Requirements mentioned, emphasizing critical aspects of environmental and social responsibility that are important to you and us! Concerns like child labor, safe work environments, equal opportunity employment are addressed on the social side. On the environmental side, use of genetically modified ingredients is prohibited, water and soil conservation practices must be in place, and indigenous lands and agricultural practices are protected.
When the program is fully implemented, we have the goal of visiting any new suppliers prior to buying product, or at a minimum within one season of having purchased their product. After that, producers and value-add processors will be subject to an audit at least once every three years, or with more frequency if a major supplier.
Once Again holds itself to a high standard—high enough that right now we are audited according to the National Organic Program standards, as well as SQF food safety standards. SQF is generally regarded as a gold standard for food safety! We are very proud of both of these certifications. In the future, we will be auditing our company against the above-and-beyond standards that our HIT program represents.
Our HIT program includes a strong reference to rigorous fair trade standards that protect worker safety and rights in the supply chain, like the right to freedom of association and reasonable working hours. Part of this program’s compliance mechanism is employing a third-party auditing organization to audit us and make sure we are following the regulations of our own HIT program!
There is no point in working with supply chain partners to implement best practices if you’re not willing to support them on this path. We are in the process of working with suppliers to understand their audit results and identify opportunities for improvement. We are proud of our efforts and first steps to help chart a path to moving forward together!